I have attended hundreds of IEP meetings in my work as a special education advocate. Often, either parents or I will make a request, be it for an evaluation, an accommodation, or for an added or increased service. And then one of the team members will enthusiastically explain that what we ask for is really quite unnecessary, and justify this position with an excuse.

I think about excuses as obstacles on an obstacle course. If you get past the excuse, you can go on with discussing what your child needs. If not, that’s where you stop, at least in that meeting. Unfortunately, I find myself on those obstacle courses more often than I would like.

School after school, district after district, year in and year out, with inevitable predictability, I hear the same excuses. As a result, I have developed comebacks for all common excuses, so that I have a response ready to go without having to think about it every time.

And while I wholeheartedly hope that all your team are meetings are collaborative and productive, in case you are ever offered an excuse, here is your Little Book of Excuse Busters and Other Magic Spells.

Excuse #1:

In response to your concern about your child’s behavior or ability, a team member says: “It’s absolutely normal for children his/her age.” Many of his/her classmates are doing the same thing/are struggling in the same way."

Your Response: “Yes, I agree that typical children might have the same difficulties at this age. However, typical children will develop, mature and naturally grow out of “whatever it is” (or learn “whatever the skill”). My child has a disability in this area and will require intervention/explicit instruction/supports to get there, and that is what I would like to discuss”.

Comment: I hear this excuse very often. You do not have to respond in the same wording, but this is the gist of what you want to say and continue with the discussion. I have used this many times and it always works.

Excuse #2:

When you ask the team for a service, support or accommodation for your child, a team member says, “We have many other students in the district with this profile/disability who aren’t getting this support/service and are doing just fine.”

Your Response: I do not know anything about the situation of these other students, so I cannot discuss them. In this meeting, we can only focus on my child and his/her needs. Can we please keep our focus on my child.

Comment: Teams often use this excuse, and this is your answer. You do not know anything about these other children, their diagnoses, the interventions they are getting and their progress. You are in the meeting to be your child's voice. Do not get side-tracked and dragged into these discussions.

Excuse # 3: